Ford to ramp up production as US auto sales begin to recover

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford will increase production to six models this year, half of them electric, as the company and the auto industry begin to rebound from sluggish US sales in 2022.

The automaker announced Friday that it plans to make more of the Mustang Mach-E, the Bronco Sport SUV and Maverick small pickup, the F-150 Lightning electric pickup and the Transit and E-Transit gas and electric full-size vans.

To help increase production, the company last year said it would add a third shift and 1,100 jobs at its full-size van plant in Claycomo, Missouri, near Kansas City, and another 3,200 jobs with related to the construction of the F-150 Lightning. in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford will also hire an unspecified number of new workers this year at plants in Cuautitlan and Hermosillo, Mexico, where the Mach-E, Maverick and Bronco Sport are made, according to spokesman Said Deep. Production line speeds will increase soon to ramp up production, with more workers arriving later, he said.

For more than two years, US auto sales have been depressed largely due to a shortage of computer chips during the coronavirus pandemic. But the chip shortage is dwindling and automakers like Ford are starting to increase production and build supplies on dealer lots.

In the US as a whole, auto sales fell nearly 8% last year to just under 14 million, with Ford down just 2%, according to Autodata Corp. according to LMC Automotive, which has seen sales rise to 15 million this year. Ford sales rose nearly 22% in February.

“The industry is on its way back,” said Jeff Schuster, executive vice president of automotive for LMC and Global Data.

Ford shares rose 3.6% in Friday afternoon trading, after the production announcement was made.

At crosstown rival General Motors, full-size pickup truck inventory is back enough that it’s closing a factory in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for two weeks starting March 27 to control it.

Ford suspended production of the F-150 Lightning in February after the battery caught fire during a pre-delivery quality check. Deep said the battery issue has been resolved and production will resume on March 13 at an annual rate of 150,000.

Production of the Mach-E will increase to an annual rate of 210,000 by the end of the year, while the company plans to increase production of the Bronco Sport and Maverick to 80,000 vehicles this year. Transit and E-Transit production will increase by 38,000 this year.

Sales are very high this year for all models that see an increase in production.

The jumps in production are good news for consumers, who have been waiting long for some of the more popular models and have been forced to pay high prices due to strong demand and short supplies.

JD Power reported that the average new car in the US sold for $46,229 last month, a record for the month of February.

But as the chip shortage eases and automakers produce more this year, Schuster said there should be some easing in prices even for hot-selling models. “I hope there will be some relief on the pricing front,” he said, adding that sticker prices may drop or automakers may offer discounts.

But he said prices will remain high and are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.

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